Warm from the stove, our homemade Swedish meatballs
served with brown sauce and potatoes. As traditional as it could be.
Photo for CMC by JE Nilsson © 2009
Swedes are very passionate about their meatballs.
When talking to Swedes, you will find most topics meandering their way sooner or later to food, and the most ardent topic of all – meatball recipes. Most male Swedes will be adamant that his mother is the only one who can do them right. Their recipe will be kept as a family heirloom and they will insist that their recipe is the only good one around.
As an international Swedish meatball ambassador, IKEA has achieved quite some success by promoting, selling and serving industrially mass-produced meatballs in their in-house restaurants all over the world. Most Swedes however, think that IKEA would have been much more successful if they had followed their mothers’ recipe instead, or at least Ingvar Kamprad’s mother’s recipe!
As a last resort supplier of meatballs to Swedes abroad, IKEA’s meatballs served with lingonberry jam and boiled potatoes have turned out to be a successful concept that continues to pull entire families to the IKEA stores globally as a proof of the powerful allure of Swedish meatballs.
It is worth pointing out that Swedish meatball recipes are not at all kept secret, as is often the case with family recipes in many other cultures, particularly in the Peranakan culture whose people live along the Straits of Malacca, all the way down to Singapore. In Sweden all recipes are public, and you would instantly get any family’s recipe if you asked for it. Asking for another family’s meatball recipe rarely happens though, and if done, it’s only to find out what they were doing wrong.
So to settle once and for all, the battle of best family Swedish meatball recipe, here is our own. As you might have understood from the above, this is actually the only really good meatball recipe in Sweden. So, here goes;
Ingredients for 80 meatballs
1 kg (2 lb) Minced meat, 2 parts ground beef, 1 part ground pork (70/30 beef and pork is also alright depending on preference)
1 cup cream
1 cup, milk, meat broth or water.
2 cups dried breadcrumbs
Salt to taste (1 1/2 teaspoons suggested)
Allspice (2 teaspoons suggested)
1 large onion, finely chopped or preferable grounded
Mix breadcrumbs and all liquid ingredients, stir, and let the bread crumps soak for a few minutes. Add the meat, spices and stir into a mixture that is stiff enough so that it lends itself to rolling into balls, around 2,5 cm (1 inch) in diameter.
Shaping the meatballs.
You can use a tablespoon to help shape the meatballs against the palm of your hand. If the dough is not too soft, shaping is made easier.
Raw meatballs ready for the pan.
Once you have the meatballs all lined up, gently roll them into the hot frying pan. We’ve used a cast iron frying pan because it distributes heat fairly evenly. Use a generous helping of butter for frying.
Rolling the meatballs gently into the buttered frying pan.
Fry the meatballs until they turn a deep golden brown at medium heat. Keep the temperature at an even medium heat. Too low a temperature will result in boiled meatballs rather than crisp fried ones and too high a temperature will risk turning the onion content in the meatballs black.
The meatballs sitting pretty…
… in some cast iron frying pans. Meatballs freeze well and it pays to make a large batch for storing when you are at it.
The meatballs are usually served with a light brown sauce, and for that you’ll need:
2 tbs butter
2 tbs wheat flour
4 dl of milk (option: add some cream)
1 meat cube
1 tbs brown soy sauce
½ tsp white pepper.
The brown sauce begins by frying the wheat flour with the melted butter in the pot. Add the meat cube and stir till it melts. Then pour in the milk and cream and blend. Some soya sauce and peppar to taste.
The light brown sauce on the stove, soon to accompany the meatballs on the plate!
Whilst waiting for the entire batch of meatballs to fry, the ones that were fried earlier are stored in another pot to braise.
Meatballs braising just before serving.
Swedish meatballs are a traditional everyday dish and is usually served with boiled potatoes, although mashed potatoes is a popular variation today. On the side, usually lingonberry jam, but we’ve decided to go with red currant jelly for a twist. Pickled cucumber is also a traditional addition.
Swedish meatballs are fairly uncomplicated to make, unlike kåldolmar which is a more time consuming dish to prepare. You can expect to set aside about one hour from start to finish with Swedish meatballs.
A few details: you can try not to use a mixer for chopping up the onions because the steel blades tend to give a bitter taste to the onions. If you want chopped onions, do so finely by hand, but grounded onion works best for this recipe. For the brown sauce, you might find that a dash of white pepper is the key to create just the right old time genuine flavour.